Who's up for launch?
April 19, 2009 6:53 AM   Subscribe

Steve's Story: Since 1994 Steve Eves has been dreaming of something big. He is about to have his day. On April 25th at Higgs Farm in Maryland. Steve Eves will launch the largest model rocket ever, a 1/10 scale model of the Saturn V that sent men to the moon. The launch will be open to the public.
posted by jefeweiss (45 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Will it be made out of Legos?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:56 AM on April 19, 2009

Cool. I'm waiting for the day when a couple of hobbyists launch into earth orbit.
posted by Mcable at 7:18 AM on April 19, 2009

Saturn V
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:29 AM on April 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

Among the many stupid and dangerous things that I did as a kid was the time that I made a model rocket, cut the top off of the motor and filled the body with cotton soaked in gasoline. When I launched it, it immediately caught on fire and flew wildly into the air. Then it came straight down in a blaze of glory, landing less than 20' away from me and my friends.

I was so lucky that I:
  1. Didn't set the field on fire
  2. Didn't get hurt
  3. Didn't get caught
It was really cool but it paled to comparison to the pipe bomb I made later.

I don't know how I survived childhood without killing or maiming myself.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:38 AM on April 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

As North Korea and Iran look on with envy.
posted by punkfloyd at 7:46 AM on April 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

bunnytricks: I take it Mr. Bean is a segment planner for Top Gear?
posted by JHarris at 8:15 AM on April 19, 2009

I'm waiting for the day when a couple of hobbyists launch into earth orbit.

Cue Salvage One theme music.
posted by steveburnett at 8:22 AM on April 19, 2009

Higgs Farm in Maryland.

Best bosons on the eastern seaboard, I tell you what.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:03 AM on April 19, 2009 [8 favorites]

Not included in the FPP, partly because I wasn't sure how their server would handle it, here is a link to a report on the flight of the current record holding rocket. (Fairly large PDF file w/ pictures) The Liberty rocket was 20 feet tall and weighed in at about 1000 pounds. The Saturn V model is 36 feet tall and weighs 1600 pounds.

This includes a picture of someone climbing inside the rocket as it is being prepared for launch.
posted by jefeweiss at 9:14 AM on April 19, 2009

At this point I think we can safely drop the word "model" from this project.
posted by abc123xyzinfinity at 9:49 AM on April 19, 2009

I was going to ask "What happens if the shoots fail and this comes screaming down into Baltimore?". Then I realized no one would care.
posted by doctor_negative at 10:21 AM on April 19, 2009

This is cool, but to be honest, I'm a lot more interested in altitude... Unless I'm missing something, the main thing this rocket has going for it is bulk... going 3000 feet up is not all that exciting when other hobbyists are approaching 400,000 feet.
posted by glider at 10:34 AM on April 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

"The estimated altitude of this single stage effort will be between 3,000 and 4,000 feet and the project will be recovered at apogee."
How they do that? Keyhole?
posted by MtDewd at 11:33 AM on April 19, 2009

Success or failure, I'm gonna have to see footage of this.
posted by vibrotronica at 1:26 PM on April 19, 2009

posted by gimonca at 2:02 PM on April 19, 2009

The article is too long for me to read, but I wonder how this is going to be stabilized. I doubt it has enough fin for stable flight.

I last launched small scale model rockets in the 70's (up to F engine) and have no idea about how these large scale rockets work. Do they use something other than plain-old aerodynamic stabilization? Do they have a humongous ejection charge to eject the parachute, or is it done by electronics? OK, tell me RTFA if you like.
posted by DarkForest at 2:21 PM on April 19, 2009

Oh, and when the video appears, someone please post a link to this thread. I'll be eager to see it.
posted by DarkForest at 2:24 PM on April 19, 2009

Can anyone tell me why model rocket engines are called motors?
posted by kuujjuarapik at 3:34 PM on April 19, 2009

As far as I know this rocket will be aerodynamically stabilized. It's supposed to go up in one stage but separate and come down in 3 parts with a parachute for each part. Any rocket this big has electric controls for the parachute and separation mechanism. In this case, the rocket will be locked together at launch and at apogee a mechanism adapted from the pre-tensioner of an automotive seatbelt will fire and allow the stages to come apart.
posted by jefeweiss at 5:37 PM on April 19, 2009

Great and interesting post. This is the sort of stuff that keeps bringing me back to the site. The Saturn V was the ultimate rocket in many respects especially when you consider how big of a step up it was from the ones that came before, and the primitive computer and other technologies that powered this beast. To this engineer, the Saturn V program was pretty much the ultimate engineering accomplishment of recent memory. I think you need to go back to the pyramids or something to compare. This is an amateur project of deep love and respect, and of incredible geekerey. The computer jocks sometimes seem a bit lame in geekery compared to real rocket scientists. All dashikis (I date myself), pizza and caffeine for the computer jockeys, while the rocket scientists were more coffee, teamwork, buzzcuts and denial. OK, it's pretty much the same except for the buzzcuts versus the dashikis and attitudes towards the establishment. I think quality was also more important than speed for the rocket guys, but it was a race and they won. Their budgets were better too. Those rocket guys of the Saturn V program rocked.
posted by caddis at 5:48 PM on April 19, 2009

"Can anyone tell me why model rocket engines are called motors?"

I was wondering the same thing. I went and did some reading. There appears to be no universal consensus on the issue.

Perhaps the simplest way to put it: Motors act directly on the system into which they deliver energy, and are simple systems; Engines act indirectly, and are complex systems.

There may be some arcane technical differences. Each sub-field of engineering seems to have a different set of criteria. Even the professionals seem to disagree about why they use the terms they do.

Electric motors are motors. Rocket "engines" are motors.

Internal/external combustion engines are engines.

I agree with "doug" from the teslamotorsclub.com:

"Yes terminology is important. As a scientist, I know that precision in communication is crucial. I also used to be a grammar Nazi. But there is often a difference between the technical and common definition of a word. And even between different technical fields, the same word can have different definitions. More and more, I've come to realize that language is fluid and there isn't really much of a point arguing these sorts of semantics."

N.B. some folks may want to say that motors impart motion, and that was my first thought too, but the electric starter motor in a car simply imparts torque to the ring gear to get it started (yes that's a form of motion, but it's not direct forward motion). Internal combustion engines provide torque as well. So the torque vs. motion distinction may not be appropriate. On top of that, you can have an electric motor drive a complex gear mechanism - a transmission.

We could examine it all day long, but it really comes down to this: it's just jargon. Electrical engineers cringe when we call conductors "wires". Civil engineers are quick to point out that "dirt" is what's under your fingernails, while "soil" is the loamy stuff we try to build on. Landscape architects design with "shrubs", never "bushes".
posted by Xoebe at 9:00 PM on April 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

A liquid propellant system is typically identified as an engine as opposed to a
solid rocket that is identified as a motor. -- Fundamentals of Space Systems

Although one of the definitions of rocket motor is rocket engine, the current trend in industrial usage is to use the term motor when referring to devices using solid and hybrid propellants, and to use the term engine when referring to those using liquid propellants, especially when using pumps, etc. -- The Illustrated Dictionary of Pyrotechnics

NASA, for example, refers to the Solid Rocket Boosters as "rocket motors" and the Space Shuttle Main Engines as, well, "rocket engines".

It is, however, pretty easy to find liquid propellant "engines" called "motors" and vice versa. This is essentially a preference and not a definitional distinction.
posted by dhartung at 10:56 PM on April 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'll, er, watch this from a distance if it's all the same to you, Steve.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:07 AM on April 20, 2009

I love articles like this with numbers, sheer numbers. Pounds. Height. Fuel weight. The amount of nails. Gallons of fiberglas coating. Vertical ribs for the detail.

And a five-story rocket gantry being built. For a model.

I won't be anywhere near Maryland on Saturday, but I sure as hell want to see this as soon as it hits YouTube.
posted by Spatch at 5:43 AM on April 20, 2009

Higgs Farm in Maryland.

Best bosons on the eastern seaboard, I tell you what.

I don't know there's a strip club in Ocean City that has this French girl.. oh, you said bosons.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:56 AM on April 20, 2009

Thanks, Xoebe and dhartung. I would have figured that engineers were more precise.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 8:51 AM on April 21, 2009

I'll be there. It's only a two-hour drive, and I've never seen a world record attempt before. This ought to be pretty astonishing to witness.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:27 AM on April 22, 2009

I'd like to hear a first hand account of how it turns out. I'd love to be there, but it looks like I will be busy elsewhere. Hopefully there will be some video of the event online, I am betting on the likelihood.
posted by jefeweiss at 11:44 AM on April 22, 2009

Ladies and gentlemen of MetaFilter, I was there.

My friends and I arrived at about 11:45, and a large crowd was there to meet us. The number of spectators wasn't really surprising, since the weather was pretty much perfect for a rocket launch-- temperatures in the low 80s and bright sunshine, with hardly any wind at all. The general atmosphere was cheerful, with folks of all ages come to see and kids running around in the field. The spectators were restricted to an area about 500 yards away from the rocket, but we could see it just fine.

The crew conducted and reconducted their pre-launch safety checks. An announcer on a PA system described the rocket and what we, the spectators, should do if anything went wrong or the rocket were to travel in our direction (run away). At about 12:45, the announcer said that a sounding rocket would be launched to test the wind at the higher altitudes. The sounding rocket (a much smaller, normal-sized model rocket) was launched, its trajectory was observed, and conditions were deemed satisfactory.

The launch area was cleared at 1:00. The announced said that Steve Eves was ready, the launch crew was ready, the rocket was ready and he was ready, so he started the countdown. The whole crowd counted along, because come on, you have to.

There was a tail of flame, a plume of smoke and a tremendous noise. The rocket lifted off beautifully, and soared into the sky as the crowd cheered. When it reached its apex, it split in two and deployed the parachutes, one on the nose cone and three on the main body. The crowd cheered again. The parachutes caught the wind and the rocket was carried over the crowd, across the road and into the opposite field, where it slowly descended for a perfect landing. The biggest cheer of all, this time. The launch had gone off without a hitch, and Steve Eves had broken the world's record.

I'd estimate that the rocket traversed about 600 yards all told, and the flight lasted about three minutes from liftoff to touchdown. Here's a very nice video of the launch and the flight, and naturally there are others as well.

It was an honor and a thrill to be present-- quite literally, we witnessed history in the making. The subsequent fried flounder at Mrs. R's Family Restaurant was just a bonus. If anyone has any specific questions about the launch, I'd be happy to answer.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:07 PM on April 25, 2009 [11 favorites]

That's a pretty amazing video. The thrust to weight ratio of the model is much better then the actual rocket. The rocket gets off the pad pretty quickly.

They have to be pleased with this flight, it seems like they would be able to recover the rocket in perfect shape.
posted by jefeweiss at 6:49 AM on April 26, 2009

What about the kittens, were the kittens alive when they opened the hatch door?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:21 AM on April 26, 2009

posted by Faint of Butt at 11:54 AM on April 26, 2009

Liar! That's an NSA coverup! The kittens were returned safely to earth, but were somehow... changed. Like they'd seen something up there, something unspeakable.

What terrors still live behind the eyes of those kittens?
posted by blue_beetle at 12:56 PM on April 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

But the wave particle said there was a high probability of kittens!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:59 PM on April 26, 2009

You guys are idiots. The description said they had flounder in the capsule.
posted by digsrus at 1:51 PM on April 26, 2009

posted by Faint of Butt at 2:39 PM on April 26, 2009

That wasn't flounder.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:53 PM on April 26, 2009

You guys are idiots. The description said they had flounder in the capsule.

What else would a bunch Eastern Shore Marylanders shoot into space but seafood?
posted by Pollomacho at 7:09 AM on April 27, 2009

Nobody's reading this thread anymore, but here's a terrific writeup from the Baltimore City Paper. It's got lots of details I didn't know, including the identity of the announcer (Neil McGilvray of the Maryland Delaware Rocketry Association) and the actual altitude of the flight (4,441 feet, even higher than planned).
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:55 PM on April 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

What. about. the. kittens?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:44 PM on April 29, 2009

I have no idea how these people got their cats wedged into their rockets, or why.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:24 AM on April 30, 2009

I think they bonsaied them to be nose-cone shaped.
posted by Pollomacho at 10:42 AM on April 30, 2009

Does anybody read the posts down here?
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:15 PM on May 10, 2009

I don't
posted by Pollomacho at 9:48 AM on May 11, 2009

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